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"diffused education." Chatter replaces converse, and imitation ousts originality; pinchbeck prevails. People will not stop to reflect in an age when progress means the material march of the moment . But, on the other side, to take a larger and truer view of "society," there is a much better mutual understanding of classes to be found in the novel than formerly. Dickens, to his great honor, inaugurated this movement; and the quickened public spirit that feels itself part of a community, realizes its membership of a whole, and believes in—
Not what we give but what we share; The gift without the giver is bare—
is a prominent result. Stories like No. 5, John Street have benefited the world, and are eminently "modern." They belong to the democratic movement, which has by now possessed the Universities; and in this meaning modern literature is more Christian than it has ever proved before. To eradicate caste, and yet preserve the patois, if we may so describe it, of classes is an aim of literature. Again, our bourgeoisie has become more amenable to ideas, and that most impervious section, the "middle-middles," catch the infection of movements which they share if they do not encourage.
But, allied to these modifications is a dreary sense of depression, a drab pessimism which has succeeded the gayer tints of excessive optimism. There is a despondent border-class that has for some time been under close observation, especially in the pages of Mr. Glssing and of Mr. Wells, of such as, under widened educational facilities, are sometimes doomed to ambition's failure. This particular form of pessimism is peculiar to our age, and almost confined to our country, where class-barriers are still strong enough to accentuate the pathetic hopelessness of the struggle.
Another direction in which Fiction has been influenced by Democracy Is that of the Press. The cheap journals have multiplied like mushrooms, and ape their American cousins with Importunate gossip and unfortunate -English. This has not been without deteriorating results both! to matter and style. The public for Fiction is much wider, and some of it is dieted on the smart cleverness and slovenly picturesqueness of these newspapers. That public gets what it expects. It resents leadership; it affects to govern opinion; but for it opinion ia not a voice, but a shout. It eschews modulation. Its majority, it thinks, justifies its dictation; and collective ignorance figures dominant wisdom. It fancies it has convictions, but its beliefs are only the aggregate of its clamor, which grows as it goes—a snowball on some muddy road.
But ours is also eminently a self-conscious era. It is forever looking at itself in the glass with a valetudinarian curiosity, and analyzing even its grimaces. Scientific psychology has appreciably changed the Novel. Psychology is no longer the nebulous hypothesis it was once. The doctrine—shall we say the dogma?—of evolution, and the development of comparative philology —for language rightly understood is a branch of psychology—has transformed the outlook. Here, too, the element of mystery is being; ruthlessly eradicated.
Yes, the tumults of the soul
sang Pindar all those centuries ago. Wisdom does not pretend to be puzzled now. Not satisfied with searching out the stars, cataloguing the earth, and taming electricity, it has mapped out and accounted for the passions and the emotions. The supreme problem of mutual influence is now being pursued in the phenomena of hypnotism. Psychology has tinged romance. Deeds and emotions are now not so much portrayed as scrutinized, and Fiction is fast becoming more and more (in German phrase) motivirt. George Eliot was the first in England to apply these methods. She Germanized it. That the weight of scientific study and the new jargon of its terminology oppressed her later creations is undoubted. They ex-. hale the lecture-room. But, none the less, in Romola she already employed the method with conspicuous success. And this is the more remarkable because the historical novel has always been, and still is, Immune from the contemporary thought of its authors. It has always, since Scott, sought to animate the dry bones of the historian; and the greatest historical romance of days nearer to our own—Mr. Shorthouse's John Inglesant—wsiS in no way more signal than in its complete and sympathetic mastery of the Platonic spirituality of a portion of Carolean Anglicanism, steeped in the higher teaching of the Renaissance.
But what George Eliot achieved with ease of effort, others attempt with evident constraint. We seem to hear them punlng up their hill. The dust of their library chokes, the smell of their laboratory revolts, us. We feel that Fiction is not the arena for amateur scientists; still less the receptacle for tora-up university examination papers. And not the least curious sign of our times is that democratic frivolity relishes this ponderous play at science. It seems to descry in it one of those short cuts to knowledge of which it is so fond; to believe that it has secured a bargain, and that) a sort of scientific clearance sale "at a great reduction" is proceeding at Mudies'. For our own part, we deprecate the innovation. The philosopher or the scientist who engages himself in Fiction should respect the boundaries of his province; and real depth of thought or learning is best shown by the exhibition of outcome, not of
process. It is as if the Venus of Milo were to be chalked all over with anatomical dimensions, or (what is left of her) to be offered to medical students for dissection.
But the psychologist in fiction is not always thus. Balzac Initiated a psychological school in France, which M. Bourget, in shades fainter, if less delicate, has followed.
Against these severer novelists a romantic reaction has already set in. Before them, and in very different guises, we had the versatile bombast of Lytton, and the bizarre fancifuiness of Oulda. In England, to-day, we behold a romantic revival of which Mr. Maurice Hewlett is arch-exponent. In America psychology has hardly modifled Fiction at all. The American novel, in its later and most rapid developments, becomes more and more sociological, and tends to handle the forces of co-operative movements rather than to analyze individual emotions.
In connection with both science and America, a word must here be added on the decay of humor in modern fiction. Scarcely a single novelist of the past was devoid of it. In England, however, it is now almost dead. We say "almost" because Mr. Anthony Hope, Mr. Anstey Guthrle, Mrs. Clifford, occasionally Miss Fowler, but above all Miss Rhoda Broughton, are powerful exceptions. The last, to our mind, is our most humorous writer since Trollope, and through her humor she deserves to live. But in America there is a flood of humor which cannot be stemmed by science. True, the American humor is rather the spurt of high spirits allied to the youth of a nation than the individual creation of any one master. True also, that American humor consists mainly in what logicians would term suppressing a minor premise. It amuses by jumping at conclusions. True, further, that it tends to be journalistic, "smart," "up-to-date" humor, something that no millionaire's counting-house can do without. But none the less it is there; strong, buoyant, bracing, inextinguishable; laughing boisterously across the breezy Atlantic, while the European pessimists wail, and the impressionists whimper. It is the laugh, not perhaps, precisely of Homeric gods, but of very shrewd, good-natured and observant mortals. And, "for this relief, much thanks."
We started by asserting that despite its speed, its nervousness, its democracy, its mechanical and material turn, its self-consciousness, our generation was one of thought, of sadness, of suffering, and of sympathy. The magnetism of its thought is witnessed by the very haste of Demos to assume its semblance while it evades its reality. "Thought is free"—perhaps too free nowadays, when license is at times frantically mistaken for liberty. But there are many more now that wish to think than of yore. A thoughtful author has an audience, even if he has to educate them first. Our only complaint as to Fiction is that its thought is too often pedantic, too reminiscent of prigs and of dons, too obtrusive. Jane Austen, Thackeray, even Trollope were all, in their varieties, thinkers; but they shrank from being bores, and their thought was bathed in humor. One effect, however, of the thoughtfuiness on Fiction must be recorded. It has banished the type of story which depends merely upon plot. Of the many that used to thrill us, Wilkie Collins and Miss Braddon alone maintain their popularity, because they combine other qualities with that of propounding and unravelling a mystery. In this domain Dr. Conan Doyle cannot compete with them, and he is too wise, in these latter days, to try his hand on a long and sustained "Sensational Novel." The sadness of our time is more peculiar to it. It is perhaps akin to its nervedegeneration. All humanity is the
spectator of a tragedy, wherein, after a while, it feels it too must act its part. The rough-and-tumble robustness of the eighteenth century has departed. The sal-volatile of the nineteenth has evaporated. Were ever spirits like those of Dickens? He romps in his rollicking exuberance. Thackeray wrote in a minor key, but he owns that schoolboy knack of fun which distinguishes Leech's drawings; Trollope owned it too—Trollope, who in so many qualities resembled his friend Millais: and, at an earlier date, the great Sir Walter owned it also, and not least when grappling with fate and worn by disaster and disease. Jane Austen, with her exquisite miniatures of tranquil selfcontentment, scarcely seems to have had any eye for suffering. It is only in her last novel—Persuasion—that she addresses herself to it at all. Of all our earlier novelists, the Bronte's alone seem to have exercised the modern faculty for sympathy and for suffering, and their morbid organizations render them exceptional to their time.
The sympathy of present Fiction is more manifold than it could ever have been, for few can sympathize with tho unknown. Sympathetic a great writer must always be, but now nearly all authors are forced to seem sympathetic. The links of communication have girdled the earth. The roar of humanity rises in one great volume, hourly and graphically recorded. There is no escape from conscription in the cause of mankind. Nor can we doubt the wholesomeness of the sign, despite the vagaries of the school that sobs over a blackbeetle. while it is callous towards a man. A cheerful instance of the enlarged sympathies of Fiction is to be found in books written for children. No side of child-life (including, if the pun be permitted, the "side" of the modern child) Is left unrepresented or unprovided, and the Fairy-tale took a new start with Alice in Wonderland—a book destined to be as undying as Don Quixote. The child-world is now a living organism. The formalities of the Fairchild Family have vanished; "Parents" no longer need "Assistants:" and an interaction between the fiction addressed to the grown-up and that designed especially for children is most noticeable. In the old-world novel children played a very small and a very vague part. In the modern novel they play one distinct and convincing. The young lesson the old. The old have ceased to patronize the young, while the child, after a fashion undreamed of in ancient Greece, has become father of the man.
The vibration, so to speak, of manifold modern influence quivers along the electric wires of modern Fiction. And yet with all the flashes of widened and heightened interests, with all the multitudes of their messages, with all our myriads of novels, we are still awaiting the great novelist of the future; one who will coordinate the chaos of these movements by spontaneous and creative genius; one who will make them palpable and audible, idealizing the real, and realizing the ideals towards which they strain; one who, like Nature herself, will "throw out altogether and at once the whole system of every being and the rudiments of all the parts." This it is to embody a period.
After all, an ordinary story is the form of the novel. That ordinary story may be heard any day in the streets. Each passer-by is always telling such a story, with the "He says to me, he says," and the "Well, you see it was like this," which any of us may hear any day. It is the shape given to the
Tbe Fortnightly Review.
substance which makes it interpretative and lasting. The giant competition of our day, while it affords varieties of comedy and of tragedy unknown to our forefathers, has so far hindered any single masterful presentment. Of making many books there is no end. There are two antidotes which may in the near future remedy the relaxation of fibre that has attended the body fictional. The one is a revived sense of national unity and of national purpose. The other, an improved standard of criticism. Of late there has been a sort of indifference which has produced the indifferent. And there have been too many cliques of mutual admiration; too much "log-rolling" in the commerce of unabashed advertisement. National compactness, critical insight and sympathy, may applaud honest effort, and reject the spangles of gaudy trash or the postured affectations of profundity. Nor will it prove the least service of a new criticism if it can also eliminate the flood of bad English that defiles the fountain. The voice that calls to us should be pure and true. This at least was once the case. With an audience far less instructed than our own, the styles of Fielding and of Smollett, of Sterne, and even of the prolix Richardson, were such as to make their readers realize what a wonderful medium is the English language; how flexible in its solidity, how majestic in its directness. Voltaire has observed that the Englishman says all that he wants, the Frenchman all that he can. In modern literature we need somewhat more of the Frenchman's imposed limit; some outward barrier of repression against the redundant gush that • promotes quantity and impairs quality.
To act the part of officer in attendance upon Malayan royalties la a task with which circumstances have familiarized me. As I review the past it seems to me that I have been engaged in that thankless office on and off any time these last nineteen years; and my memory calls up a series of recollections, commonplace enough in themselves, but alien to the experience of the majority of my fellows, and as such perhaps worth recording.
I was first detailed for duty of this description when I was myself in leading-strings—that is to say, at a time when I was a newly joined cadet, and barely more than halfjway through my teens. I knew very little of natives in those days, and even less of the vernacular; but I was chosen for the post, for which I was manifestly i11-fltted, by no less a person than the very r&ja over whose welfare I was required to watch. The reasons that actuated his choice were not far to seek: he had no desire to be controlled by any one, and he rightly judged that I should be absolutely porwerless to control him. He was a typical son of the old rtgime, a barbarous person of unspeakable manners and morals. When, some years later, his time came to die, and when, in accordance with the custom of the land, his people conferred a posthumous title upon him, they called him "Al-Merhum Rahmat Allah," which, being interpreted, is, "The late king, God be merciful to Mm!" They felt that no conventional phrase of laudation or glorification would fit him, and that, in view of his manifold iniquities, the best that his most sanguine friends could hope was that Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, might grant him the forgiveness which he had not earned, but needed sorely.
In the company of this potentate I
spent three lurid weeks while he disported himself in the neighboring colony of Penang. I was technically responsible for all his lapses from prudence and mannerliness, yet I knew myself for what I was—the merest fly upon the wheel! His doings and omissions covered me with shame as with a garment. When we appeared in public I was conscious, with the acuteness of agony only known to the very young, that we presented a grotesque and ridiculous figure. When some more than usually humiliating incident occurred, it was in vain that I pleaded my impotence to prevent or guide him. It was my business to do both, and the excuse of sheer impossibility was rejected with scorn whenever I urged it. That time comes back to me now with all the haunting misery of a bad dream. Most of the tales which I might tell concerning it are of the kind that must be told in camera, and cannot therefore be printed here; but one or two of a more publlshable character will suffice to indicate the many and grievous things which I suffered at his hands.
One of my chief troubles lay in the inability of my king to appreciate the advantages of punctuality. In common with all Malays he held time to be valueless, and regarded an hour or two either way as a thing of no account. I remember my distress when all my efforts failed to drag him from his sleeping-mat in due time for a parade of a European regiment which, to the extreme discontent of a peppery old commanding officer, had been ordered in his honor. British troops in Asia are very precious things, and the unpardonable sin is to keep them standing in the sun-glare. When, therefore, I at last sneaked on to the ground in the wake of my king, I